After a yearlong investigation, the Vermont Agency of Education alleges that Burlington High School guidance director Mario Macias faked a transcript so a student could graduate, behaved unprofessionally with a college student who was substitute teaching and demonstrated incompetence by being unaware of the basic functions of the guidance department.
On September 7, the Agency cited Macias with six counts of alleged unprofessional conduct. He remains on the job and will have the right to respond to the allegations at a hearing to be scheduled within 60 days. Vermont Education Secretary Daniel French recommended that Macias' license be suspended for 364 days if the allegations are proven.
Macias did not respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Noel Green, interim BHS principal, told Seven Days that he continues to have confidence in Macias.
“He has been reliable, he's been a team player and he serves students to the best of his ability," Green said Tuesday. "I have nothing but, like I said, a stellar evaluation of him up to this point."
Green said he had not participated in the investigation so far but planned to attend the hearing. He expressed doubt about whether it would be fair but declined to elaborate.
“I will say that I do not have confidence in due process in regards to this situation,” Green said. Asked why, he stated: “I don’t really think I can get into that.”
Macias was not at school Tuesday, but remains employed full time and is not on leave, Green confirmed.
The BHS student newspaper, the Register, first broke the news about the case against Macias. The story appeared online Monday, but by midmorning Tuesday, it was gone. Green said he told Register staff to remove the story from the website.
“In my opinion, it created a hostile work environment for one of my employees,” Green said. “I would react the same way for any of my employees.”
The Register's site Tuesday
The personnel tempest has been brewing for more than a year. Several guidance counselors left their jobs last summer and spoke out at a Burlington School Board meeting. They said Macias was demeaning to staff, not performing his duties and was often out of the office.
After news reports about the controversy, the Vermont Agency of Education opened an investigation last September into possible licensing sanctions involving Macias.
A nine-page affidavit from the investigator, Robert B. Stafford Jr., alleges a number of licensing violations. Stafford wrote the affidavit after interviewing current and former guidance counselors, students, teachers and other Burlington School District administrators.
According to the affidavit, Macias fabricated a transcript for a person identified as "Student 1" so the student could graduate in June 2017. Stafford investigated the matter after former guidance counselor Yvette Amblo-Bose, former BHS registrar Colleen McSweeney, and Lynn Kennedy, the retired director of alternative school program Horizons, told him they had warned Macias that the student in question had not completed the necessary credits to graduate. The student was also supposed to have received special education services but did not for a period of 18 months, according to the affidavit.
Stafford went to BHS on September 21, 2017 to request a copy of Student 1's transcript from then-principal Tracy Racicot. She could not immediately locate it, and suggested Stafford return a short time later after a guidance department meeting had concluded.
Stafford returned and eventually was given the transcript, but learned "that Macias had in-putted data that morning to complete Student 1's transcript, nearly three months after the student had graduated from BHS," according to the affidavit.
"After reviewing what was purported to be Student 1's final transcript, this writer determined that the transcript was inaccurate, manufactured and did not provide enough credits for Student 1 to graduate from BHS," Stafford wrote.
Macias also allegedly behaved unprofessionally with a student teacher who was hired as a substitute. He texted and emailed the woman multiple times, asked her out for a drink, and visited her classroom for no reason, according to the affidavit. "She said his behavior was inappropriate for someone in his position and who was married. She said Macias 'creeped' her out," Stafford wrote in the affidavit.
The document goes on to recount interactions Macias had with BHS senior Mary Markley, who was applying to college during the 2017-2018 school year. Macias was her guidance counselor and failed to submit some of the records she needed for college applications, and in other instances submitted inaccurate records, it says. He was not familiar with the National Merit Scholarship Program, and when Markley asked that he submit midyear transcripts to colleges that required them, he emailed her that BHS did not send midyear transcripts. She "eventually requested to not have Macias as her guidance counselor," the affidavit says.
Markley, now 18, graduated in June and is starting at Stanford University this month. In an interview with Seven Days, she said it took intervention from her parents and other guidance counselors to get transcripts and other forms out to colleges because Macias failed to send them or sent them late.
Not every student would have that kind of support and it's unfair to put them in a position where they don't have confidence in their guidance director, she said.
"I've never felt so disillusioned in my school," said Markley, who graduated in June with one of the three highest GPAs in her class and was named a Presidential Scholar.
The affidavit also makes clear that staff in the guidance office sought help from Racicot to assist with the situation. She initially urged them to work it out, and then went to Superintendent Yaw Obeng, who told her to give Macias one more year.
Racicot eventually put Macias on an improvement plan and placed a letter in his file about the inappropriate interactions with the substitute teacher, according to the affidavit.
This summer, Racicot moved out of the BHS principalship to return to her previous job in the district as director of the Burlington Technical Center.
Reaction to the allegations seemed to suggest a difference of opinion among the leaders of the Burlington School District.
Current principal Green defended Macias. Obeng declined to comment but released a statement about the matter.
"Mario Macias is still a licensed educator in the State of Vermont and remains employed by Burlington School District as the Director of Guidance at Burlington High School," it reads. "We respect due process and believe everyone has a right to be heard before any conclusions are made. We await the process to be put forth by the Agency of Education."
A statement Tuesday from school board chair Clare Wool sounded a more critical note. "This matter is of great concern to the School Board, the BHS Faculty and Staff, students, families and the Burlington community," it reads.
The board has been aware of the investigation and directed Obeng to conduct a review of the BHS guidance department and BHS guidance director in June, according to Wool's statement.
The topic could come up for discussion at the school board's regularly scheduled meeting Thursday. The agenda includes a request to go into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.